(Pocket-lint) - AirPlay is Apple's Wi-Fi streaming tech and there's now a second-generation version that's widely available on iOS and macOS devices. But what is AirPlay 2 and what can it do?

What is Apple AirPlay 2?

  • Offers multi-room and stereo pairing for HomePod
  • Supports music, photos, video and mirroring

Apple AirPlay 2 offers wireless streaming of content from Apple devices including iPhone, iPad or Mac.

It enables you to stream a wide range of content from your phone to your Apple TV, certain audio devices like a Sky Q box, an audio device like a compatible Sonos speaker or, new recently, compatible televisions. Lots of audio devices support it, including products from Bose, Bowers and Wilkins, Bang and Olufsen, Naim, Denon/Marantz, Polk, Libratone and Audio Pro. 

This latest version of AirPlay also ushers in multi-room compatibility for the HomePod. AirPlay 2 also enables device mirroring to share the content of your phone's display on another device.

AirPlay was first introduced in September 2010, having previously been called AirTunes for audio-only streaming.

Apple AirPlay 2 is also becoming available on a range of TVs, specifically new models from Samsung, Vizio, Sony and LG.

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Which Apple devices support AirPlay 2?

AirPlay 2 rolled out as part of iOS 11.4. The full list of compatible devices is as follows and these are basically the Apple devices you'll be able to use:

iPhone

  • iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max
  • iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max
  • iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone X and iPhone XR
  • iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus
  • iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPhone SE
  • iPhone 5S

iPad

  • All iPad Pros
  • All iPad Air
  • iPad (5th generation, 2017 or later)
  • iPad mini 2 or later 

iPod touch

  • iPod touch (6th generation or later)

Apple TV

  • Apple TV 4th Gen or later

MacBook and MacBook Pro

  • MacBook: Late 2009 or later
  • iMac/iMac Pro:Late 2009 or later
  • MacBook Air: 2010 or later
  • MacBook Pro: 2010 or later
  • Mac mini: 2010 or later
  • Mac Pro: 2010 or later

How does AirPlay 2 work with music?

  • Control multiple speakers from the iPhone or iPad
  • Multiple users can add songs to one playlist
  • Multi-room for HomePod

Apple AirPlay 2 adds speaker control to the Home app, meaning you can individually control all of your AirPlay-compatible speakers from your iPhone for the first time. Note, however, that the speakers need to support AirPlay 2. 

Considering it's more down to the phone sending the audio signals to the speakers, we expect any streaming service you have installed on your iPhone to be able to work with AirPlay 2 speakers.

When you play music from your iOS device, you can select which speakers around your home you want it to be sent to and control individual volumes of those speakers. These controls can be found in Control Centre by swiping up from the bottom of your iPhone screen.

One feature possible with AirPlay 2 is the ability to play different songs in different rooms, although only Apple Music subscribers can take advantage of it. You can simply ask Siri to play one song on one speaker, and another on one in a different room.

Another feature of AirPlay 2 is the ability for multiple users to add songs to one playlist. Say you're at a party, and one person has their iPhone as the music source, playing Apple Music - other Apple Music users are able to send songs they want played to the source iPhone, to save having to connect and reconnect several phones.

Apple

Apple AirPlay 2 with Apple TV

Provided you have tvOS 11 or later, your Apple TV can send audio to speakers around your home as well, rather than just coming from your iPhone or iPad.

Whatever speaker is connected to the Apple TV, be it a soundbar or speaker system, is automatically a de facto AirPlay 2 speaker.  

Apple AirPlay 2 with Siri

Siri takes on a prominent role with the arrival of AirPlay 2 and multi-room audio. You can tell her which speakers you want music playing on whichever speakers you have dotted around your home, and you can even ask her to play different songs on different speakers.

You're not just restricted to using Siri with the HomePod either, as she will play nice with any other third-party AirPlay 2 speaker. 

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Writing by Dan Grabham and Max Langridge.